Glycosylation at an evolutionary nexus: the brittle star Ophiactis savignyi expresses both vertebrate and invertebrate N-glycomic features

J Biol Chem. 2020 Mar 6;295(10):3173-3188. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.011703. Epub 2020 Jan 30.


Echinoderms are among the most primitive deuterostomes and have been used as model organisms to understand chordate biology because of their close evolutionary relationship to this phylogenetic group. However, there are almost no data available regarding the N-glycomic capacity of echinoderms, which are otherwise known to produce a diverse set of species-specific glycoconjugates, including ones heavily modified by fucose, sulfate, and sialic acid residues. To increase the knowledge of diversity of carbohydrate structures within this phylum, here we conducted an in-depth analysis of N-glycans from a brittle star (Ophiactis savignyi) as an example member of the class Ophiuroidea. To this end, we performed a multi-step N-glycan analysis by HPLC and various exoglyosidase and chemical treatments in combination with MALDI-TOF MS and MS/MS. Using this approach, we found a wealth of hybrid and complex oligosaccharide structures reminiscent of those in higher vertebrates as well as some classical invertebrate glycan structures. 70% of these N-glycans were anionic, carrying either sialic acid, sulfate, or phosphate residues. In terms of glycophylogeny, our data position the brittle star between invertebrates and vertebrates and confirm the high diversity of N-glycosylation in lower organisms.

Keywords: MS; N-glycans; N-linked glycosylation; deuterostomes; echinoderms; glycobiology; glycomics; glycosylation; invertebrate evolution.